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County Official's Appeal Over Facebook Twitter Bans Heard

By George Khoury, Esq. on September 28, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently heard oral arguments in Loudoun County (Virginia) Chair Phyllis Randall's request to overturn the federal district court's ruling that her blocking constituent Brian Davison violated the First Amendment.

The case, like others that have been recently decided, raises many questions about whether and when social media becomes a public forum, and what limits government officials have when it comes to censoring constituents and others on various social media platforms.

Public Forum Censorship

As reported by Courthouse News Service, the panel of judges seemed to leaning towards following their colleague in the Southern District of New York, who recently ruled that President Trump should unblock the blocked Twitter followers.

After all, as the facts seem to indicate, the page that Davison was blocked from was an official government page where official information was announced to the public. However, Davison's case is a little bit different as he was not blocked for very long. In fact, he was only blocked for a matter of hours.

Nevertheless, Davison, who is an attorney, found the block objectionable enough to file the lawsuit, which has generated quite a bit of scholarly debate, in and of itself.

First Federal Appellate Impression

As commentators note, this is a case of first impression not only for this circuit, but every other circuit at as well. While other matters around the country will likely make their way to this point, the Fourth Circuit's decision will likely be instructive, particularly as there are several fact intensive issues, such as the duration of the ban, and the status of Randall's official page.

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